‘Messy’ Review from Hypnagogue

February 26, 2010

Check out this review of Messy from Hypnagogue:

At some point in my reviewing career I may be able to shake the trepidation that comes over me when I read a press release and see that I’ve received a CD from someone with an impressive academic music background. It sets off alarm bells that I’m about to listen to something inaccessibly high-concept and that if I try to review I’m going to come off sounding clueless. Case in point, my receipt of Mark Snyder’s new release, Messy. Take my initial worry–in his bio Snyder lists 13 universities where he’s been a guest artist–then throw in the fact that the pieces here were created to accompany a multimedia performance that I can’t see and understand that the primary instruments here are the clarinet, tuba and accordion and maybe you can see why I was hesitant to hit “play.”

I have to get over this. Because Messy, as it turns out, is by and large a smooth, organic flow of gentle sounds that create a feel as accessible as any straightforward ambient CD. There are challenging compositional elements here, of course. There’s a section in the opener, “Harvey,” (a track I otherwise enjoy) where the sounds gets too dense for my liking–turning into something of a bass-laden test-pattern tone in my ears. “Malmo” in one spot winds itself into a contest of dissonant layers wrestling for dominance, backed by a tortured, wailing voice. (Vocal samples figure into most of the tracks here to some degree, most notably “Copenhagen” and “Pornography.”) But the greater part of Messy benefits greatly from the natural grace that seems to come inherently to work built around breath-based instruments. Even the accordion has to follow a degree of in-out rhythm as it takes in and expends air, and that rhythm infuses Snyder’s music. The breath begets drones that pack densely over each other. The clarinet and accordion ripple and fidget over them–when they’re not blending perfectly in with them. All in all, Snyder achieves a very natural, welcoming flow that the listener quickly acclimates to on a physical level. All the tracks here are solid, but there’s something about the slightly lonely-feeling “Alluvium” that makes it stand out to me. It just builds beautifully, and the accordion adds a folksy feel beneath everything. So I guess what I’m saying here is, don’t fear the tuba. Take Mark Snyder’s Messy out for a listen. You, too, may be pleasantly surprised.

Available at Mark Snyder’s Web site.



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